State officials to survey storm damage

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2011

By Shelley Smith
SALISBURY — The state’s damage assesment team will be meeting with local emergency management officials today to evaluate the 36 damage reports collected across the county Tuesday. The team then will determine if Rowan residents qualify for disaster assistance.
Emergency Management Division Coordinator Frank Thomason said the assistance could be in the form of low-interest loans or individual assistance grants. But the state’s team could also find the county’s damage doesn’t “add up” to qualify for assistance, Thomason said.
Virginia Graves is one resident who could use state assistance if it’s granted. Three trees fell on her mobile home Tuesday morning, one barely missing her bedroom when a holly bush helped hold it up.
“I was asleep and all of a sudden I heard a big crash. Then the trailer just shook and it settled down,” Graves said, who at 81 lives with her two cats, Little Bit and Hillary (named after Hillary Clinton).
She said the trees came down at 2:09 a.m. Tuesday, damaging the roof above her second bedroom and living room.
Graves said she didn’t realize how bad the damage was from the downed trees, and she went back to bed.
“I can only say God was looking after me,” she said. “It really didn’t hit me until later. It had a lot of damage.”
She’s lived in her home on East Ridge Road since 1970. She stopped the insurance on it four years ago after the payments increased too much.
First Baptist Church of Salisbury, the church she’s given to for so long, came together to get her in a furnished apartment that the church owns.
Items she moved over Wednesday included a portrait of her mother, taken when her mother was 3, that Graves had restored.
Her cats, who came and went as they pleased at the mobile home, will have to get used to a new place and won’t be able to go outside at the apartment, Graves said. But she’s thankful First Baptist’s pastor, Dr. Kenneth Lance, allowed her cats to tag along.
Graves said members of the church will attempt to fix her home to make it structurally sound, but she said she’s not too worried. It’s business as usual for her.
Graves spent Wednesday night teaching music to the 4- to 5-year-old “Wee Musicians” class at First Baptist Church, which she’s been doing for more than 15 years. Then it was off to choir practice.
She’ll also continue to serve breakfast at Rowan Helping Ministries, go to work this morning at Rowan Regional Medical Center as the family surgery room volunteer and remain the church’s coordinator for Meals on Wheels, which she’s been a part of for 20 years.
“I can’t say enough about First Baptist,” she said.
The prayers and assistance she’s received since Tuesday have been “fantastic. It’s really humbling.
“I had a little boy come up to me while I was eating supper and said, ‘Ms. Graves, I’m glad you weren’t hurt.’ ”
Graves said she wants to go back to her home, but if it won’t be safe, she’ll have to leave it behind.
“It’s really home,” she said. “That’s the longest I’ve lived anywhere. But I feel it was God’s will that I wasn’t hurt.”
As of 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Rowan County had 2,100 without power, but that dropped to 1,260 by 9 p.m.
According to Duke Energy’s outage map Wednesday night, residences in the northern and northeastern part of the county made up the majority of those still without power. “We’re very pleased with the progress that the power companies are making with restoration,” Thomason said. “They’ve made a big leap today.”
He said those with secondary residential lines disconnected are unfortunately the last to see power restored.
“I’m sure (Duke Energy) is out there and continuing to move forward,” he said.
Thomason didn’t receive any calls about damage Wednesday. But he did get inquiries about when to start repairs and when to contact insurance companies.
The N.C. Department of Transportation received calls Wednesday requesting help in collecting trees and limbs, but spokesperson Dara Demi said the department is not providing pickup at this time.
“They are hearing that if they drag it to the curb, DOT will pick it up, but that’s not the case,” Demi said.
Duke Energy said power to all Rowan County residents should be restored by 11 p.m. tonight.
“It was a very significant storm for us, and it certainly could have been much worse,” Thomason said. “We’re getting there. We’re getting things put back together.”